Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Less Talk, More Action

Here's a nice little article:

10 Things Guys Wish Women Knew about Men
  1. Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected. Husbands need to know that their wives respect them both privately and publicly. Men thrive when they know that their wives trust them, admire them and believe in them. Shaunti Feldhahn’s research indicated that men would rather sense the loss of loving feelings from their wives than to be disrespected by them.
  2. A man’s anger is often a response to feeling disrespected by his wife. When a husband becomes angry with his wife, he may not come out and say, “You’re disrespecting me!” But, there is a good likelihood that he is feeling stung by something his wife has done which he considers disrespectful and humiliating.
  3. Men are insecure. Men are afraid that they aren’t cutting it in life -- not just at work, but at home, in their role as a husband. They may never vocalize this, but inwardly, they are secretly vulnerable. The antidote? Affirmation. To men, affirmation from their wives is everything! If they don’t receive this affirmation from their wives, they’ll seek it elsewhere. When they receive regular and genuine affirmation from their wives (not flattery, by the way), they become much more secure and confident in all areas of their lives.
  4. Men feel the burden of being the provider for their family. Intellectually, it doesn’t matter how much or little a man makes, or whether or not his wife makes more or less money in her career. Men simply bear the emotional burden of providing for their family. It’s not a burden they’ve chosen to bear. Men are simply wired with this burden. As such, it is never far from their minds and can result in the feeling of being trapped. While wives cannot release their husbands from this burden, they can relieve it through a healthy dose of appreciation, encouragement and support.
  5. Men want more sex. Everyone’s natural response to this is probably, “Duh!” But, that response is probably for the wrong reason. We primarily assume that men want more sex with their wives due to their physical wiring (their “needs”). But, surprisingly, Shaunti Feldhahn’s research showed that the reason men want more sex is because of their strong need to be desired by their wives. Men simply need to be wanted. Regular, fulfilling sex is critical to a man’s sense of feeling loved and desired.
  6. Sex means more than sex. When men feel their wives desire them sexually, it has a profound effect on the rest of their lives. It gives them an increasing sense of confidence and well-being that carries over into every other area of his life. The flipside of this coin also carries a profoundly negative affect. When a husband feels rejected sexually, he not only feels his wife is rejecting him physically, but that she is somehow rejecting his life as a husband, provider and man. This is why making sex a priority in marriage is so incredibly important!
  7. Men struggle with visual temptation. This means the vast majority of men respond to visual images when it comes to women. And, this doesn’t just mean the guys with wandering eyes. Even the most godly husband cannot avoid noticing a woman who dresses in a way that draws attention to her body. Even if it is just a glance, these visual images are stored away in the male brain as a sort of “visual rolodex” that will reappear without any warning. Men can choose whether to dwell on these images and memories or dismiss them, but they can’t control when these images appear.
  8. Men enjoy romance, but doubt their skills to be romantic. True, many men appear to be unromantic clods, but it doesn’t mean that they want to be that way! Men want to be romantic, but they just doubt their ability to pull it off. They are plagued by internal hesitations, perceiving the risk of humiliation and failure as too high. Wives can do a great deal to increase their husbands’ confidence in their romantic skills through encouragement and redefining what romance looks like. For example, a wife may balk when her husband asks her to go along to the hardware store, but it’s likely that he’s asking because he sees it as a time they can get away as a couple and hang out together. What’s not romantic about that?
  9. Men care about their wife’s appearance. This isn’t saying that all men want their wives to look like the latest supermodel. What men really want is to know that their wives are making an effort to take care of themselves (and not letting themselves go) because it matters to them (the husbands!). Husbands appreciate the efforts their wives make to maintain their attractiveness.
  10. Men want their wives to know how much they love them. This was the number one response of men. Men aren’t confident in their ability to express this, but they love their wives dearly. Men want to show how much they love their wives and long for them to understand this fact.
For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn

It is nice to see someone else put in print much of what I already suspected to be true. I’m not sure I really trusted this knowledge enough to put it to good use in my past relationships. That is a regret that I have. In a lot of ways, I did well, so I can’t be too hard on myself. I was intuitive enough to know that I needed to take responsibility for my own joy and pain rather than make my man feel he is to blame. I’ve always had a sense that criticism or even “constructive feedback” typically backfires, only being sort of intuitively aware that this is because it shows disrespect. Sex is certainly an area where I’ve always sensed a meaning to men beyond physical needs. I’ve always felt that I really had to care for my man in bed, understanding intuitively his vulnerability at that time.

I’ve been reading this book called How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It: Finding Love Beyond Words by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. I got what I needed from that book in just a few chapters. Seems to me the authors tried to stretch out a topic that is so simple that it really doesn’t require much elaboration. The key premise of the book is this: It is not communication that is missing in the rough patches in a relationship, it is connection. Disconnection is triggered by women’s natural tendency toward anxiety and fear and men’s natural tendency toward shame. When our fear or shame is triggered, we start to feel disconnected. When women feel disconnected, they want to talk. When men feel disconnected, they tend toward fight or flight. And that is where we run into conflicts. When we don’t truly address fear and shame in a relationship, and see it for what it really is (natural tendencies in each person and not the direct result of something the other person did or did not do), it is easy to start feeling resentment toward the other person. This often eventually leads down the path of separation and divorce.

Some of the tips for resolving this sense of disconnection I’ve read so far are pretty cliché: Give your partner a back rub after a hard day, blah, blah, blah. But ultimately chapter 2 of the book, geared toward how to transform our fear and shame and re-connect with our partners, really is pointing to mindfulness, compassion and the quality of no-self, which are key teachings of Buddhism. Unfortunately, this book just barely mentioned the need to see the emotions of fear and shame before being able to do something about them. It certainly did not explain how to be mindful of those emotions. This book along with a good book on how to establish mindfulness would be perfect companions, in my opinion. Perhaps The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn would be well suited toward that purpose. Thich Nhat Hahn is my favorite Zen teacher on mindfulness in daily life. While standing, sitting, walking, or lying down, we can always bring awareness to our breathing. Awareness of breathing helps us get in touch with our body and mind. While we are breathing, we can take a look and see what is there. At the same time, we can have compassion for ourselves for what is there. He would probably suggest a meditation like this:

Breathing in, there is fear
Breathing out, I care about this fear
Breathing in, there is shame
Breathing out, I care about this shame

Once we are able to clearly identify that we are feeling disconnected, we need to have an understanding of why. Knowing that these feelings are the result of our inborn natural tendencies (nature) as well as causes and conditions over the course of our lifetime (nurture), we can take them less personally. Sometimes we just feel lonely and disconnected or like we are not worthy of goodness. This is just how it is sometimes. These feelings come up all on their own and once they have arisen, here they are for us to work with. We can either take them seriously, spinning stories about why this is so and who is to blame – or we can see them for just what they are without attaching any stories or blame. This fear is here now. It is just fear. There need not be anything extra to it. It is not me, mine or certain. This is the quality of no-self.

When our partner is acting out with critical words or avoidance, we can apply this mindfulness to their mental state as well. If we ask the question, “Is his/her shame/fear mine?” we find that the answer is certainly “no.” We may have done something to trigger the other person’s fear or shame and it is right to apologize when appropriate, but ultimately, we have only been a trigger for emotions that are already inside the other person.

With mindfulness, compassion and not taking things personally, what to do next just comes naturally. When we work through our own insecurities and have compassion for ourselves, softening up to others comes naturally and easily. We find ourselves interacting with our partner in more positive ways and this is what restores connection. When there is connection, there really is no work in a relationship. Communication comes easily then. Just like when love is new and fresh and connected. It is easy like Sunday morning.